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The Daily Volcano Quote: subterranean oxidation 16 June 2011

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We are left entirely to hypothesis as to the cause of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but of the oneness of that cause no doubt remains. The theory first started by Sir Humphrey Davy, suggested by his discovery of the metallic bases of the earths and alkalis, and since elaborated by Dr. Daubeny, has found very general acceptance. According to this hypothesis, which is that of Subterranean Oxidation, the earth is supposed to contain, at its interior, at a great depth and in sufficient quantity, the earthy and alkaline metalloids, iron, sulphur, and sulphuretted salts. These are substances which combine with oxygen with avidity, a high temperature and strong inflammation being the result of the combination. A supply of water reaching the interior of the earth, becomes decomposed by contact with the metalloids, and yields its oxygen to them, occasioning the phenomena of combustion and explosion, which may be imitated upon a small scale, by burying in the ground a moistened mixture of sulphur and iron filings, when the mass becomes gradually heated, takes fire, and explodes. The lava which flows out to the surface in volcanic eruptions, or is driven up in dust and scoriae, is owing to the violent extrication, through a vent, of the steam which has been generated, accumulated, and confined, the oscillations and heavings of the ground in earthquakes being produced by the action of elastic vapours and gases endeavouring to effect their escape by a rending of the strata. Such is the hypothesis.

Thomas Milner, The Gallery of Nature: A Pictorial and Descriptive Tour Through Creation, Illustrative of the Wonders of Astronomy, Physical Geography, and Geology (London: William S. Orr & Co., 1846), pp. 433-4. Thomas Milner, an Anglican clergyman and Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, was also author of Astronomy and Scripture (1843), A Descriptive Atlas of Astronomy and of Physical and Political Geography (1850), The Gallery of Geography: A Pictorial and Descriptive Tour of the World (1884), etc.

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